Any visitor to Mumbai is fasscinated by its rail network. Each day, the city sees thousands of people make their way into the city from the remotest corners of the country. Not all of them are well-to-do or educated, but unlike in other parts of India, most buy a ticket before they board a Mumbai local train. The trouble starts when they cannot distinguish between a first class and a general compartment.
Last week, two young men from Bhubaneshwar found themselves hauled up by a ticket checker on a Central Railway train. It was apparent that they were not intending to break the law. Their demeanour suggested that it was a genuine mistake. Probably in Mumbai for the first time, they had rushed into the first train compartment they saw empty.
The ticket checker had no choice, but to read out the rules to them. Once off the train, he pointed out that the compartment clearly said, "First Class". The duo confessed that neither could read. They also admitted that to them the entire train looked the same and stripes painted on the side of a particular compartment held no special importance to them. They reiterated that they meant no offence and had been uninitiated in Mumbai's ways. Yet, after a brief discussion, they coughed up a hefty fine for what could only be called a mistake. They disappeared into the crowd, shoulders slumped and nodding their heads.